In back-to-back offseasons, the Chicago Bears have added two of their most vocal leaders to the roster.
Defensive tackle Justin Jones and fellow defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker set the tone for expectations in back-to-back days. And, despite their respective positions along the defensive line, it is not the defense alone that stands to benefit from their presence.
DL Setting Tone for Bears’ Roster at Minicamp
Justin Jones ‘Ready to Takeover’
“I wish [Aaron Rodgers] had played one more year with Green Bay,” Jones said on June 13 after Day 1 of mandatory minicamp, per Ari Meirov of MySportsUpdate. “Their fans are really s*****. I wanted to go back up there and I wanted to play them and I wanted to beat them and I wanted him to be there so he could see it…I’m ready to take it over. It’s a good time to be a Bear fan. I’m not even going to lie to you.”
Rodgers’ dominance over the Bears is well-documented, and Jones conceded that it might be better that he’s not a Packer anymore.
The outspoken Jones has not been shy in speaking his mind about opposing quarterbacks.
I asked Justin Jones about the footballs that were used in tonight's game.
Here is his response. pic.twitter.com/tRE3Ce4wyX
— Nicholas Moreano (@NicholasMoreano) October 25, 2022
A 2022 offseason addition in free agency after the Bears’ deal with Larry Ogunjobi fell through, Jones was the lone bright spot along a defensive line that helped generate a league-low 20 sacks and ranked 32nd against the run last season. Jones was also durable, finishing fourth on the team in defensive snaps taken.
Bears’ New Addition Raising the Standard
Walker, 28, did not hold back in his assessment coming over from a perennial playoff team in the Tennessee Titans.
“We got the No. 1 pick last year so what is there to be happy about? What is there to celebrate about,” Walker said after practice on June 14 via the Bears’ YouTube channel. “Anything that we’re doing, we’re trying to learn on a new foundation to get to the promised land.”
Coming off a 7.0-sack campaign, Walker has recorded 17.5 sacks over the last four seasons in a part-time role. Jones – an interiors lineman – combined with Bears EDGE rushers Trevis Gipson and Domonique Robinson to record 7.5 sacks as a group and spoke out about what he believes the Bears are getting in Walker.
“He’s a good guy in the room,” Jones said on the ‘Bears WeeklyPodcast ’ on June 13. “Good president. Another leader in the room. Guys respond to him pretty well, and he brings this intensity I feel like that was much needed, that we were missing. So I’m excited about him.”
Walker was not the only new Bear to speak freely about the reality of last season’s squad, either.
Bears TE Gets Brutally Honest About Last Year’s Offense
Former Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan was once on the other side of that rivalry Jones spoke of, giving him an outsider’s view of what was going on on his side of the ball for the Bears. His assessment of a passing game that ranked 32nd in both attempts and yards and finished 19th in touchdowns: not much.
“I mean from what I saw last year, obviously, there wasn’t very much passing game,” Tonyan said after the June 14 practice. “I’m just impressed with the growth that’s going on, and I think we’re trending in the right direction.”
There aren’t many other directions for the team to go after last season.